Part Two: Avoid the Perspective/Perception Trap

This is the second part of a two part series. Part One is originally appeared on May 11, 2013.

The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis reminds us that we tend to perceive what we want or expect to perceive. Any new information we interpret is simply assimilated into existing images and, in most cases, it is used to rationalize a decision or reinforce a stereotype.

The challenge then becomes how to improve perception while keeping perspective…

  1. Understand the problem space.  Think about the multi-dimensional aspects of an issue or problem- how it impacts individuals over time and across spaces (in person and in cyberspace).  Drug trafficking has a very different impact on a local community than it has on a nation state or a border area.
  2. Embrace creativity.  Engage in activities, like dancing or chess, which activate both the right and left sides of your brain.  Go to an art exhibit or read science fiction; try to move in and out of alternate perceptions of reality.
  3. Red team a scenario.  Immersion into the mindset of the opposition is one way to gain perspective.  The actor Daniel Day Lewis, who recently played Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, read about and studied the former President for a year before the filming began.  Lewis remained in character, even speaking like Lincoln during breaks, for the duration of the film shoot.  While Lincoln was not an adversary of Lewis, this is one example of a way to adopt an alternate mindset.
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